AS the impact of coronavirus continues to unfold, one Bolton foodbank is reporting a huge rise in use, with an 80% increase in emergency food parcels given to people over the last six months compared to the same period in 2019.

The staggering figures were released by Farnworth and Kearsley Foodbank as they renewed appeals for donations to try and keep up with the unprecedented demand.

According to the Trussell Trust, who operate the food bank, measures brought in by the government, including the Coronavirus Jobs Retention scheme, the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme and changes aimed specifically at people on low incomes, have helped some people stay afloat.

But as the figures reveal, far more people are needing food banks’ help than this time last year, with little sign of slowing.

With these schemes set to wind down over the coming months and other measures proving to be insufficient, the charity say further action is urgently needed to ensure no one is left behind during the crisis.

“The pandemic has made a massive difference to a lot of people,” said Mark Whittington, who manages the food bank at The Well on Trafford Street, Farnworth.

“There has been a big increase in those who wouldn’t ordinarily have ever used the food bank such as those who have lost their jobs due to coronavirus and those encountering issues around benefit payments and particularly Universal Credit.

“People with zero hour contracts are also suffering and then you have families who are having to cope with extended, unplanned time with the kids at home.

“It has really affected people who have been living month to month and just getting by but all of a sudden are having to cope with a month or two months with no work and find themselves struggling.”

Mark also points out that other charities have not been able to operate in the same way during lockdown leaving those who rely on them without an essential lifeline.

“Other service provisions have closed down or slowed right up in terms of people working,” he said. “There just isn’t as much support out there despite the fact that many groups have stepped up to try and provide emergency food and other provisions.”

The food bank has now renewed calls for donations and financial support as it tries to help as many people as possible.

Mark said: “We don’t think anyone in our community should have to face going hungry.

“That’s why we provide three days’ nutritionally balanced emergency food and support to local people who are referred to us in crisis.

“In terms of donations people have been massively generous and we have supermarket collection points at Tesco and Asda which continue to be full.

“Local business are also giving to us regularly which has been a big help but financial donations are always welcome.

“It can mean we can buy food that we are particularly low on - inevitably we get a lot of things like pasta, rice, baked beans and tinned soup but we run low on other items such as toiletries and nappies, which can be expensive, so people struggle to afford them when buying food becomes a priority.”

Sadly, Mark believes it will take a long time for people to recover as the health crisis is overtaken by an economic one.

“We’re really asking people to consider supporting us financially,” he added. “We don’t think this is a short term thing and as more people lose their jobs or come put of furlough we are going to continue on this upward curve of use.”

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